USNWT facing tough battle in fight for equal pay

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USNWT facing tough battle in fight for equal pay

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team after winning the 2019 World Cup championship.

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team after winning the 2019 World Cup championship.

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team after winning the 2019 World Cup championship.

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team after winning the 2019 World Cup championship.

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The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USNWT) has won four of the eight World Cup championships since the women’s tournament was initiated in 1991, including the last two (1991, 1999, 2015, 2019). It can be argued that this team is the most successful U.S. national team in any sport since 1990, as the team has also won four Olympic gold medals and eight CONCACAF championships within that same time frame.

Contrarily, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) in that same time-frame has zero World Cup championships, zero Olympic medals (gold or otherwise), and five CONCACAF championships. Since 1990, the best the men have done at the World Cup is an eighth place finish in 1994, and the best they have done at the Olympics is a fourth place finish in 2000.

But there is one area in which the men excel over the women: getting paid.

When chants of “equal pay” broke out at the 2019 women’s World Cup championship match and at the USNWT’s ticker-tape parade in New York City in July celebrating their championship, it highlighted the pay gap between the men’s and women’s teams. And while the women’s fight for equal pay has been going on for some time, the USNWT’s 2019 World Cup championship has brought that fight to the forefront.

The USWNT has been in negotiations with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) for equal pay, but those negotiations have broken down leading to the USWNT filing a lawsuit. According to ESPN, in that suit, the USNWT is citing that “if the men’s and women’s teams won each of the 20 non-tournament games they are contractually required to play, the women would each earn a maximum of $99,000 ($4,950 per game), and men would each earn $263,320 ($13,166 per game).” The suit goes on to contend that from 2013 to 2016, women players earned $15,000 for making the national team, while the men earned $55,000 in 2014 and $68,750 in 2018. 

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) governs the World Cup tournament, and its president Gianni Infantino has stated that he wants to double the prize money for the 2023 women’s World Cup, to $60 million, but the prize pool for 2022 men’s World Cup is also going to increase to $440 million, so the gap would widen nevertheless.

USWNT players Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press  appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” the day after winning the 2019 World Cup and said that any conversations with the federations must start with pay equal to that of the male players. “If they want to have a serious conversation and are willing to not only talk about paying us equally and valuing us in that way, but actually doing it and showing us that they’ll do it, our ears are always open,” Rapinoe stated.. “I don’t think anybody wants to go to litigation. But with that said, we’re very confident in our case.”

The USMNT issued a statement in support of the USWNT, saying, “The members of the United States National Soccer Team Players Association once again stand with the members of the world champion Women’s National Team in their pursuit of fair compensation for their work as professional soccer players.”

The USWNT’s suit also includes the statement, “While we are prepared to take our equal pay fight through a trial if necessary, we believe that both sides would benefit from an equal pay settlement now.”                  

While the result of that demand would be but one step in fighting a long history of gender discrimination in sports and beyond, it is a critical one as most Americans believe that the USSF needs to listen to its female players and close the pay gap between the men and the women that represent the U.S. in international competitions.

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